How did the Phoenix land?

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by Messianni, Aug 20, 2008.

  1. Messianni

    Messianni Commodore Commodore

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    I've been tempted to watch First Contact again as of late and a question that I've pondered for some time now came up again: how exactly did the Phoenix land after its inaugural warp flight? It did not seem to have any sort of landing gear and I somehow doubt the crew in Montana had any resources for a rescue at sea, so how exactly did they bring it back?
     
  2. syc

    syc Captain Captain

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    I always heard that the forward compartment detached and the capsule made a surface landing...? IDK about that theory by it sounds more plausible the the Phoenix landing in water or something like that.
    It's quite possible that they ejected? Picard did say that he saw the Phoenix in the Smithsonian, so maybe after reentry the crew "jumped" for lack of a better word, and parachuted to the surface. While the Phoenix made a hard Earth Fall. Seems the most likely considering the technology of the post-war era.
     
  3. JuanBolio

    JuanBolio Admiral Admiral

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    I think the cockpit module detached and landed via parachute, while the bulk of the ship remained in orbit, to be retrieved later. I know I saw a step-by-step graphic of the process somewhere, but I can't find it at the moment.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2008
  4. shipfisher

    shipfisher Commander Red Shirt

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    Very likely.

    A possible "all-up" landing alternative would be if you consider what would otherwise be bussard collectors at the front of the nacelles being used to generate a re-entry plasma sheath around the otherwise un-aerodynamic rear section of the the Phoenix. Parasails or chutes would finish the job, probably with the help of some landing thrusters just before touchdown.
     
  5. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Then again, if we accept that the actual warp engine was left in orbit and only the front cabin returned to Earth via parachutes, then we can also argue that Cochrane later launched up another, larger cabin plus some other gear. This would turn the ST:FC test ship into the ship we saw in the Encyclopedia - the one with the big round protective shield between the cabin and the engine.

    Cochrane would probably want to reuse the warp engine, and would thus be unwilling to risk a reentry.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  6. shipfisher

    shipfisher Commander Red Shirt

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    I'll agree that landing the full vehicle isn't in keeping with the apparently limited resources of Cochrane's team. Concept drawings I've seen of the Phoenix show what appear to be space shuttle style thermal tiles on the cockpit section only. It would have been a fun ride down for Laforge and Riker compared to 24th century shuttlecraft (and probably comforting to have a transporter bail option if needed).
     
  7. Cid Highwind

    Cid Highwind Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    That's a nice idea. The new crew module, in this case, might have been a detachable vessel (the Bonaventure?), and the combination of Phoenix warp engine and Bonaventure cabin/landing pod (shielded against the engine part)might have been used for early space exploration.
     
  8. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    ...Indeed, Cochrane might well have decided to abandon the originally intended capsule landing and to rely on the nice magic of his new friends instead. Provided that the E-E had been brought back online by the time Cochrane reached orbit again, that is.

    Timo Saloniemi

    Edit: Whoops, reply aimed at the second-to-last post, of course.

    As for the last one:

    I'd like to think that the re-podded warp engine was eventually used for the first flight to Alpha Centauri, thereby establishing the inventor forever as "Zephram Cochrane of Alpha Centauri" despite his Earth origins.

    I'd still like to keep this Bonaventure and the TAS one separate: the latter could be an ENT era or immediate pre-TOS era namesake, the first to have a specific new type of warp engine rather than the first to have any kind of warp engine. I know it doesn't mesh exactly with Scotty's TAS words, but the good engineer would no doubt be in the habit of speaking jargon that leaves out some facts obvious to him but not to the audience. (Remember his "simple impulse" outburst...)

    Timo Saloniemi
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2008
  9. Cid Highwind

    Cid Highwind Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Yeah... apparently, there are two different ships with that name, anyway: Memory Alpha disambiguation page

    The first one (C1-21) would in this case be the crew module suggested here - the yellow blob in front of the engine part even looks as if it's a separate/detachable vessel.

    The second one (10281NCC) would be a later starship, the one Scotty referenced.
     
  10. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Probably a lot more than two ships, too. One wonders if there wouldn't be room there for the ship from Spaceflight Chronology as well... (The Memory Alpha objection to the SFC ships having warp 2 too early is IMHO not valid, as "First Flight" never claims humans didn't already travel at warp 2 or higher at the time of the NX Alpha test flights. All that is claimed is that the engines being developed for the NX project had not yet reached warp 2.)

    It would erase a few "contradictions" if Cochrane's Phoenix and Cochrane's Bonaventure were essentially the same ship, only rebuilt for the later missions. But Earth probably built a lot of warpships out of scratch or modified them out of sublight vessels in the 2060s already. Perhaps Cochrane, enamored with the fact that the future saw him as a hero and philantrophe, decided to place the blueprints of his engine to public domain?

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  11. Tigger

    Tigger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Indeed. It would have been easy for the E-E to slowly tractor the ship from orbit down to the surface which would have allowed it to both serve as a physical model for follow-on projects to study as well as allow it to be located in the Smithsonian.
     
  12. Messianni

    Messianni Commodore Commodore

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    Problem with that is the Vulcans were right around the corner. Seeing a highly advanced starship tractoring in this little vessel to this primitive world may have aroused a lot of suspicion. They were trying to stay hidden from the survey team, remember.
     
  13. UssGlenn

    UssGlenn Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    This question comes up every once in a while. In fact my very first thread 5 years ago had the same title as this one. Personally, while separating the cockpit makes sense from a structural standpoint it doesn't fit well with Cochrane's desire to make a bunch of money off his invention and retire. Perhaps someone with more imagination than me can tell me how he makes money off his design is he has to abandon the revolutionary part in orbit. How does he prove it worked?
    I figure he used steerable parasails to splash down the whole ship in a lake.
     
  14. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I would vote for the detachable crew capsule making a landing on the ground, assuming how fragmented governmental control of the sea and land were at that time. The warp stage would be left in orbit for refueling and reuse.
     
  15. SoM

    SoM Commander Red Shirt

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    That was a test for his benefit - only a fool would show off something untested to potential investors. He "parks" the engine in orbit, and takes a non-warp ship up later on with fuel, a new/rebuilt capsule, and the people with the dosh (or representatives thereof).
     
  16. Lindley

    Lindley Moderator with a Soul Moderator

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    It *would* be useful to leave part of it in orbit. Easier to get back up there if you don't have to carry so much mass. But how easy would it be to reattach the warp drive on an EVA?

    Perhaps he just left it at the ISS or its successor. Assuming a post-nuclear world would have the resources to maintain a space station of any kind....
     
  17. shipfisher

    shipfisher Commander Red Shirt

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    I did think that a possible concern with leaving the warp engine section in orbit was it perhaps being a bit of a prize in what would probably be a politically unstable post-WWIII period, assuming several nations or corporate entities still had access to LEO. The TNG pilot did suggest things were still pretty rough, at least in some places, even by 2079.
     
  18. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Yup, I'd wager LEO was safer in those days than the surface was...

    Which could be in orbit for all we know. I mean, if they are going to keep on accumulating important aerospace hardware, they're soon going to need an extension for starships anyway.

    One would think all such installations would have been prime targets in the war, and probably destroyed. The question would then become, were they rebuilt after the war? And if Cochrane can launch to space with a shoestring budget, one would think plenty of other folks would be getting back up there as well. Somehow us Earthlings did manage to cobble together the Valiant, for example - and I very much doubt she was a unique case.

    Certainly the immediate prewar space capabilities of Earth's nations were much more impressive than anything we'll have in the 2050s. Hell, their 1980s capabilities already surpassed our 2050s projections by a fantastic margin - that ISS-lookalike space station from ENT opening credits might be from the late seventies for all we know. Which presents a slight problem for Cochrane, as his secret hardware won't be 100% secure even in LEO. Then again, it makes things easier for him because his business associates can go get a look all the more easily.

    Speaking of said associates, one'd think they were intended to be on board for the test flight already, else why install the two passenger seats? Or at least one passenger seat, plus one for a person capable of giving a few readings (of Hail Mary at least)...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  19. Tigger

    Tigger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    However, they did come back during the day, as I recall, and the Vulcans arrived at night, so there was a period of at least a few hours between the time the Phoenix returned from her run and the Vulcans arrived. Should be plenty of time to get the ship down, especially with shield extensions or some such. :)


    Agreed. I am not sure Cochrane would want to leave it up there, especially since he himself likely didn't have access to another launch vehicle that would get him to LEO to recover it, but would be at the mercy of some other party.

    Now, having invented it, he'd still be very important since anyone who could get up and recover it would not know how it worked and would likely not want to take the risk of permanently damaging it while trying to reverse-engineer it. So he certainly had some cards to play that could influence him to just bring back the nose capsule...


    It appears that at least North America and Western Europe (along with Japan) weathered World War III very well, considering how many of their major population centers appear in the 24th century much as they did in the 21st. San Francisco, for the most part, is unchanged. Same with Paris. And Washington D.C. evidently made it through okay if the Smithsonian is still around, even if the Phoenix is actually in an orbital annex and not over at Udvar-Hazy in IAD. :cool:

    And within just a year or so of First Contact, the Valiant was heading out to the Galactic Rim, so there must still be extensive and robust aerospace manufacturing facilities around.
     
  20. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Do we know that he didn't have another rocket available? He had a shoestring budget all right, but he was squatting in an abandoned missile base. While he might have had a shortage of titanium pressure vessels, there might not have been a comparable shortage of Titan lower stages.

    Not to mention that there might have been relatively cheap surface-to-orbit, single-stage, semi-aerodynamic solutions available at the time. Not good enough for lifting something as big as the warp engine, but mundane and available for the odd pair or trio of people who want to get from London to Sydney in an hour or take a holiday in orbit. Such things could have weathered the war relatively well, requiring little more than a surviving kilometer of runway and a hydrogen plant.

    ...Who knows, he might even have had a little red button in his pocket, connected to the scuttling charges of the warp rig. Or better still, a little keyboard on which he'd have to punch his secret codes every second day or so in order to keep the rig from scuttling itself. Earth as of 2063 strikes me as Paranoia City anyway.

    Timo Saloniemi